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Chamber finds that many small businesses are not aware of plastic bag ban that starts March 1st

Wednesday, February 19, 2020


Ringing the Alarm on the Plastic Bag Ban that Starts March 1st

Small Businesses Not Adequately Trained to Comply



Today, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce is sounding the alarm because many businesses remain unaware of the plastic bag ban that they are supposed to comply with starting March 1, 2020. In a quick canvass of 41 retailers in Harlem and Chinatown last week, the Chamber found that only half of them (21 out of 41) were aware of the plastic bag ban. Even those who were aware of the law had some confusion, such as wrongly believing they could keep the 5-cent fee they are supposed to charge customers that request a paper bag. (They cannot. Instead, three cents is supposed to go to the state Environmental Protection Fund and the other two cents is supposed to go toward production of reusable bags).


Policymakers had a lot of time to get the word out. The statewide law was adopted in April 2019. A city law adding the 5-cent charge for the use of paper bags was enacted in May 2019.


Still, the Manhattan Chamber found that the awareness campaign by both the city and state were lacking:

·      The City Department of Sanitation coordinated many free reusable bag giveaways and subway ads for consumers, but appears to have done little education and training for small businesses.

·      Both the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the City Department of Sanitation websites are lacking in terms of providing the clear information business owners need to understand how the law affects them. For example, the city website (which is listed on many fliers) sends businesses to the State DEC website (on for understanding on the 5-cent paper bag fee that was instituted by the New York City Council (there is no info given there about it).


“There are some real deficiencies here,” said Jessica Walker, president and CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “Fortunately, businesses that don’t know about the law will only receive a warning and be allowed to institute changes without an initial fine. But it is a huge missed opportunity because full implementation of the law now relies on state enforcement agencies to identify violators. More education beforehand would have minimized confusion and ill-feelings among businesses and consumers alike.”


“The shopping bag ban is an example of a rule being rolled out that does not benefit consumers and punishes retailers, and there’s been real confusion about its implementation,” said Bob Schwartz, owner of Eneslow Shoes. “We have plenty of inventory of reusable plastic bags. They are already on-hand and paid for. It’s a waste that we are not allowed to offer these to consumers. Furthermore, some approved bags are made of plastic. This is an example of bureaucratic decision-making, not ecology at work.”